In 1952, Congress designated Sept. 17 Citizenship Day in order to honor the formation and signing of our Constitution. Thereafter, then-President Truman proclaimed “... it is most fitting that every citizen of the United States, whether native-born or foreign-born, should on September 17 of each year give special thought and consideration to his rights and responsibilities under our Constitution.”
It is in that spirit that this Citizenship Day I take a moment to recognize that this election year we must all seize our rights and own our responsibilities with a commitment to realizing our fullest potential as a country and fighting to uphold our values.
Whether native born or naturalized citizen you have the right to participate in elections — it is of utmost importance that you exercise that right. If you have not done so already, please make sure you register to vote by Oct. 9. If you have questions or need help, please visit voting.nyc or call (1) 866 VOTE-NYC (868-3692).
New York City is a co-founding member of Cities for Citizenship — a national initiative of 85 municipalities across the country to promote naturalization and citizenship programs for immigrants — and has invested millions of dollars to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers have the legal support they need on their path to becoming citizens.
We honor those who have taken the oath to become citizens; encourage those who are eligible to naturalize, but have not yet taken the final steps, to take advantage of the city-funded resources available to support them through the process; and call upon all New Yorkers to make their voices heard.
Our ActionNYC program provides connections to city-funded, free and safe immigration help to all of our immigrants across the five boroughs, and in languages that they speak. New York City residents can call the ActionNYC hotline at 1 (800) 354-0365, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. We continue to invest in this initiative because we recognize that when immigrant New Yorkers receive legal support on their path to citizenship, our city as a whole benefits.
And for those who are not yet citizens, you too can make your voice count by completing the 2020 Census by Sept. 30. The Census is composed of 10 simple questions that take less than 10 minutes to answer. By filling it out for your entire household, you can help to ensure our communities get their fair share of billions of dollars in federal funding for public schools, affordable housing, roads and bridges, and more, as well as the representation in Congress we deserve.
The Census is safe and confidential — there are no questions about citizenship or immigration status. You can easily self-respond now online at my2020census.gov or by phone at 1 (844) 330-2020. We need all New Yorkers — native born, citizen and noncitizens, regardless of immigration status — to be a part of this once-in-a-decade count.
Every immigrant New Yorker, no matter where you are along the path to citizenship, is a vital part of our communities and carrying on the legacy of generations of people who came to this country to follow their dreams and contribute to an open, welcoming and democratic America. Your story is the story of this city and of this nation, breathing life and hope into the values written in our Constitution.
Let us together seize our power.
Stay safe, stay healthy, register to vote, and let’s get counted, New Yorkers!
Bitta Mostofi is Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.